July/August 2001

Should seniors worry about memory lapses?

Wanted: 400 healthy seniors willing to put their minds to the test

by Patty Pitts

Baby-boomers like to call them "senior moments" those frustrating, momentary memory lapses when a normally sharp, agile mind suddenly goes blank. But what do these mental black holes actually mean when they happen to seniors?

And are memory lapses nothing more than a fleeting neurological glitch or are they indicative of a much more serious condition?

Studying the significance of inconsistent memory has dominated the recent research of UVic psychologists Drs. David Hultsch, Esther Strauss and Michael Hunter. For nearly four years the trio has conducted a series of studies as part of Project MIND, their ongoing research into "the ups and downs of mental functioning."Hultsch and Strauss (Diana Nethercott photo).

To better understand if memory inconsistency among healthy seniors is an indication of more serious neurological problems in the future, the Project MIND team needs volunteers lots of them willing to play some periodic mind games over the next four years.

To form a research group of 200 people, the researchers need to choose from a pool of 400 volunteers who are 65 or older and living independently. The researchers will visit the volunteers in their homes for two-hour sessions every two weeks over two months.

During these visits, the volunteers will be asked to perform memory tests such as recalling stories or lists of words, performing exercises that record reaction times to simple signals, and completing some noninvasive physical tests such as blood pressure.

Each year the five bi-weekly visits will be repeated. Volunteers will be invited to participate over four years to track how people change.

For information about being a volunteer with Project MIND, please call 721-7549 or e-mail mindlab@uvic.ca.

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